House Committee Says Yes To EC in the ER

A bill that would require hospitals to tell rape victims about emergency contraception moved one step closer to becoming law today as Senate Bill 60 passed unanimously through the House Health & Human Services Committee. It will now go before the full House. The state Senate voted in favor of the bill Jan. 30 by a vote of 25-10.

There was no testimony in opposition to the bill, while health professionals, reproductive rights advocates and sexual assault victims offered sometimes emotional testimony in support of the measure.

This is the fourth try for bill sponsor Sen. Betty Boyd, who introduced similar measures in past years. The closest such a bill came to becoming law was in 2005, when former Gov. Bill Owens vetoed it. Catholic hospitals have objected to similar measures in past years, but this session’s bill includes a right for hospital workers who object on moral grounds to opt out. Catholic hospitals, however, would still have to find someone on staff who would talk to victims about Plan B.

Rep. Debbie Stafford, R-Aurora, said she was previously opposed the the bill, but she was struck today by the absence of objections from Catholic hospitals. 

“It’s caused me to rethink my position,” she said.

The committee also unanimously adopted an amendment that would require pharmacies that don’t stock emergency contraception to post a conspicuous sign saying so. Plan B is available without a prescription, but pharmacies aren’t required to stock it. A Colorado Confidential investigation in November found that EC wasn’t available at many pharmacies in the state. EC can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, and the amendment would save women valuable time waiting in line at pharmacies that don’t stock it.

Rep. Anne McGihon is the bill’s sponsor in the House.